In February, 2019, in a story that went almost unnoticed in Washington, the small South American nation of Uruguay began installing the first of 2,100 surveillance cameras, donated by the People’s Republic of China to improve control of its borders with neighboring Argentina and Brazil.
The move highlights the significant deepening of the Uruguay-PRC relationship over the last decade, including their establishment of a “Strategic Partnership” in October 2016, and the signing of a memorandum of understanding in August 2018 for Uruguay to join China’s Belt and Road initiative (despite being about as far from the PRC as is geographically possible).
Beyond Uruguay, the development also highlights a little-discussed but important dimension of China’s advance: its expanding global sales of surveillance and control technologies. Although the press and U.S. political leadership have given significant attention to the risks of employing Chinese telecommunications companies such as Huawei the equally serious but newer issue of expanding sales of Chinese surveillance systems has been less discussed.
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